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BYU football: Offensive staff could be overhauled

Published: Monday, Dec. 20 2010 11:56 p.m. MST

BYU football coach Bronco Mendenhall (Brian Nicholson, Deseret News) BYU football coach Bronco Mendenhall (Brian Nicholson, Deseret News)

PROVO — BYU's offensive coaching staff could be on the brink of undergoing a major overhaul.

Coach Bronco Mendenhall met with his offensive coaches Monday, just two days after the Cougars broke a school record for most points scored in a bowl game in a 52-24 trouncing of UTEP in the New Mexico Bowl.

Sources told the Deseret News that the coaches were told to seek employment elsewhere while Mendenhall conducts individual staff evaluations to see which of those he will retain.

On Monday night, Brett Pyne, BYU's media relations director for football, offered to clarify the situation.

"Any reports that BYU football coaches have been released from the staff are inaccurate," he said in a statement. "BYU head football coach Bronco Mendenhall has begun the evaluation process of the recently completed season. As part of the process, Mendenhall met with offensive coaches and indicated a restructuring of the offensive staff is being evaluated. Mendenhall told the coaches this includes possible changes in assignments and personnel. The review will continue after the holidays and has no specific timetable."

The coaches on the offensive staff are assistant head coach-running backs coach Lance Reynolds, offensive coordinator Robert Anae, offensive line coach Mark Weber, quarterbacks coach Brandon Doman and wide receivers coach Patrick Higgins.

The Cougar offense struggled through the first half of the season, scoring 16 points per game through the first eight contests. But the offense turned things around down the stretch, averaging 42 points in the final five games.

The offensive woes began soon after Mendenhall decided to play two quarterbacks — junior Riley Nelson and true freshman Jake Heaps — to start the season. Both played well in the season-opening victory over Washington, but in the next two games, it became clear that the plan to share snaps was not working.

Nelson started the first three games, then suffered a season-ending injury in a 34-10 loss at Florida State. Heaps started the final 10 games.

Last Saturday, Mendenhall acknowledged the "mishandling" of the quarterback situation and blamed himself for that decision.

"From the quarterback perspective, I learned a lot this year. Maybe the worst thing that happened was winning our opener against Washington playing two quarterbacks," he said. "I believed that could continue throughout the season.

"What I learned is, half the reps for the quarterback not only divided their productivity, but we were trying to tailor the offense too much for each one. We couldn't have enough consistency and it was affecting the players around them — from the offensive front to the skill players."

Added the Cougars' head coach: "I think (playing two quarterbacks) hurt us at the beginning of the year. And it's no one's fault but my own."

Mendenhall fired defensive coordinator Jaime Hill on Oct. 2, the day after a 31-16 loss at Utah State. Later, when asked about the status of his offensive coaches, Mendenhall gave them a vote of confidence and said he would evaluate their performances after the season.

Now, that evaluation process is underway.

BYU statement

BYU’s official statement regarding published reports that BYU’s football coaches have been released:

“Any reports that BYU football coaches have been released from the staff are inaccurate. BYU head football coach Bronco Mendenhall has begun the evaluation process of the recently completed season. As part of the process, Mendenhall met with offensive coaches and indicated a restructuring of the offensive staff is being evaluated. Mendenhall told the coaches this includes possible changes in assignments and personnel. The review will continue after the holidays and has no specific timetable.”

e-mail: jcall@desnews.com

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